The Skinny on Skin Cancer
While no form of cancer is a laughing matter, some forms are often considered less dangerous by most people. Skin cancer is one such form that seems somewhat innocuous, but is actually very dangerous.
The Shinny on Skin Cancer
Any way you cut it, cancer is a scary thing. Next to AIDS, cancer is just about the last thing you want to hear when you are at the doctor’s office. Although medical research has come a long way when it comes to treating many forms of cancer, it is still a horrific diagnosis. Throw in the fact that chemotherapy treatment is brutal to undergo, and you have a deadly disease with as nearly a deadly treatment.
As you probably know by now, there are many different forms of cancer. Some are slow growing and treatable, while others prove to be terminal in nearly every case. This leads many to consider some cancers more serious than others. In truth, all cancers are serious and some of the ones that people brush off as not serious can kill you. Skin cancer is one such form.
So, what is skin cancer? A simple description is the abnormal growth of cells on your skin. It tends to be categorized in three ways – melanoma, basal and squamous. Anyone can get skin cancer, but individuals with fair skin tend to be more susceptible. Dark tans or naturally dark skin do not protect you against skin cancer – a common misconception.
Of the three types of skin cancer, melanoma is the most aggressive and deadly. Fortunately, it is also the rarest of the three. Melanoma is usually considered to be associated with moles, but not always. The association is often made because melanoma often is found with collections of melanocytes, cells that produce the black pigment found in moles. To the naked eye, it can be difficult to tell the difference between moles and melanoma. If you have moles, and most people do, the key is to watch for any changes to the moles such as expansion, bleeding or itching. If melanoma is not treated early, it can spread to your lymph nodes and then the rest of the body.
Basal cell and squamous skin cancer are more common, but far less deadly. Basal tends to stick to the impacted area of the skin and not spread to the internal body. It should be treated, but is rarely considered a terminal situation. Squamous is a less common than Basal, but packs more of a punch. Although it can spread, it tends to appear as red, open sores when it does. Unless you completely fail to use common sense by seeing a doctor at some point, it rarely makes it to a terminal state.
Unlike many forms of cancer, skin cancer is preventable if you use common sense. If you are going to be outside in the sun for a significant time, wear sun block with a SPF 15 rating or better. Avoid tanning booths, which can cause the same damage as the sun. If you have moles, check them once a month in the mirror for any noticeable changes, bleeding. If a mole starts to itch, it is time to make an appointment with a dermatologist.